Welcome to IdeaJones.com

Articles, radio stories, ads, columns, corporate communications, novels or scripts – we’re never short of ideas. We also have a small shop at Etsy.com.


Joey Jones is the published author and editor of many newspaper and magazine articles, radio stories, advertisements and commentaries, and has ghostwritten everything from speeches to love letters. She is a past Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting semifinalist and Fade In: Screenwriting Awards quarterfinalist. She also gathers sound and conducts interviews as a freelance field producer in the Sacramento area, and her on-air performance as “The Dying Fish” can be heard in the Water Education commercial series.

Mark Jones makes a living producing radio shows (check out Connections on Capital Public Radio’s Music Station). As Martin Jenkins, he’s heard weekday evenings on CapRadio News, and Sunday mornings on 91.3FM KUOP Stockton/Modesto. Mark has also sung, acted and directed local theater and TV.


We’re about the story. Whether it’s the facts and figures of nonfiction, or the deeper truth of fiction, we want to find just the right words, sounds, and/or images to get it across.

We’re also about the process. “Do the work right, and on time.” Life’s too short to make things harder than they have to be.


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Learning Tips From A Tutor — Don’t Get Married For The Wedding

Working with a friend who is seeking his GED, we talked about how he came so close when he took the GED test before, and what he can do differently this time. He was within a point of getting his GED when he took the test, a heartbreaker, and I respect him for trying again.

When we talked about how he prepared for the test last time, I realized that he had concentrated so hard on the test, as though that would be the end of the process. He’s also studying to become licensed as a truck driver. I helped him study and pointed out that he was so fixed on the test itself, he’d lost sight of the real goal, a career. The license is necessary but the exam, and the license, isn’t the goal. Those are steps to the goal, which would be the career that followed. “You’re studying for the test,” I told him, “but the test is just to show that you know the information you’ll need when you’re doing the job. Don’t study for the test, study for the career, so you’ll know this stuff and be able to use it.”

He blinked at me. “That’s what I do,” he said. “I study for the test. I did the same thing with the GED. I didn’t study to understand it and be able to use it — I studied to pass the test. This time I’m studying for understanding more than for the test, so I’m remembering more.” It’s true. His English has improved so much in the past year. He’s worked hard, and it shows. He hasn’t just memorized things; he’s understanding concepts. “It’s like when someone gets married for the wedding,” he told me. “A wedding isn’t about the wedding. It’s about the marriage and the years and the life that follow.”

And learning is about understanding. Yes, we need to pass the tests, but the tests are to show that we understand and can, hopefully, make use of the information. My friend has stopped studying for the test, or, as he puts it, getting married for the wedding, and he’s really learning.

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Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween 2 IdeaJonesI have fond memories of Trick or Treat. I could only do it when I was very young as we moved after that to several places where we had no close neighbors, but when I was five, Halloween was a very big deal. The selection of a costume was crucial as Halloween only came once a year, which meant it would be an eternity plus an eon before I could choose another costume, in Kid Time.

When I was five, I wanted to go as Mr. Ed. If you’re younger, you may be interested to know that there were once shows on television that featured talking horses, talking cars… the 60s were an interesting time. Anyway, Mr. Ed was the talking horse and star of his own show, a beautiful Palomino with a somewhat goofy, sometimes dry sense of humor (at five, you don’t realize the horse’s voice comes from an actor reading lines).

I was madly in love with Mr. Ed and wanted to marry him, to my mother’s consternation. She tried explaining that it would work because he couldn’t eat at the dining table with us (we didn’t have room for a trough), and he couldn’t sleep in my bedroom. I shrugged that off and said we’d figure out something, and I could sleep in the barn. Mom said again that I couldn’t marry Mr. Ed. When I asked why, she said it was because he was already married. There was already a Mrs. Ed. Being a good girl, this meant he was off limits. Note that she didn’t try to say it wouldn’t work because Mr. Ed was a horse. In our family, we were used to believing six or more impossible things before breakfast, like Alice in Wonderland.

Anyway, to help assuage my broken heart, she told me I could go trick or treating as Mr. Ed… but we couldn’t find a costume. Nowhere in Santa Cruz, and not even in the neighboring towns, which we tried. I was down, but Mom, who usually made my costumes (it was a big deal that she tried so hard to buy me one in respect for my being disappointed in love and all), said she would make me a costume. Although she was talented, she said there wasn’t time to make a horse head. Was there anything else I might like?

I thought about it and told her I wanted to go as a tomato. All these years later, I don’t remember what it was about tomatoes that was so appealing, but I was determined. If not Mr. Ed, I wanted to be a tomato.

She tried. She really did. Mom was a talented seamstress with a lot of inventive flair, but her best efforts left me looking more like an unfortunate medical condition than a healthy, ripe tomato. And it was the night before Halloween. In a burst of desperation, she declared I would be Santa Claus. Santa Claus? On Halloween? That just made no sense (whereas marrying a horse or being a tomato seemed altogether rational). She finished my costume and I wore it to school the next day, where kids laughed and asked me why Santa Claus. I explained that I was supposed to be a tomato but it didn’t work, which just confused everyone more.

Came Halloween evening. Forcing a smile, I trudged out with the other kids and parents to go Trick or Treating, dreading having to explain at every single house that I was really a failed tomato. At the first house, the woman who opened the door exclaimed, “Santa Claus! That’s great!” She called everyone in the family to come see the little Santa. Versions of that happened at almost every house. People told me over and over how funny, how cute, how brilliant, even how scary (from someone who was already dreading holiday shopping) it was to go out on Halloween as Santa Claus. And I took in a real haul of candy. I was showered with Pixie Sticks, chocolate bars, even handfuls of coins. I made out like a whiskered, red-suited bandit.

That’s the thing about Halloween. It can surprise you. May your surprises all be happy ones.

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Learning Tips From A Tutor — Change It Up!

I’ve been a literacy tutor for years, both formally (paid professional) and informally (volunteer), and have picked up a few tricks for learning, which I shared with a friend who came here from another country and is studying for both the GED exam and a work exam that could mean a better-paying job. For both of these, he needs to master information so he can recall it and use it under stress (exam pressure and being timed).

The work test is a licensing exam to drive “big rigs,” tractor-trailer trucks. He needs to master a pre-trip checklist that he’d perform for the licensing test, and again before each driving assignment. When we saw each other last week, he was feeling some anxiety about the test and remembering all the items on the checklist. I suggested he try some methods for increasing retention, including this one, which he found helpful:

When trying to learn a list, whether it’s a list of words, a list of names and dates, or a list of operations you have to perform, change up how you learn the list. Just as the nose gets accustomed to a scent that doesn’t go away and stops noticing it, the brain can get bored with repeating the same thing over and over and largely check out of the process, so while you’re repeating it, most of the brain is ignoring it as something that isn’t changing and therefore doesn’t need attention.

Change the list. Try it from the last thing backwards to the first. Then from the first item to the last. Then find a point in the middle and go forward from there, or backward. In his case, instead of going through the checklist from the front of the truck back to the tail lights, he began starting at the tail lights and going back until he finished at the headlights, or starting in the middle at the front of the trailer, doing the list for the trailer, then going through the checklist for the cab. Changing it up forced his brain to continue to notice it. It was always slightly new, and therefore couldn’t be done on autopilot. His brain had to pay attention.

This is a lumpy, awkward process the first time you try it. Your brain wants to get through something and be done with it. It doesn’t want a thing to keep changing. So expect this to feel like trying to start off walking with a different foot than you usually start with, or use your left hand when you’re right-handed.

He reported back that his retention had improved a lot. He now feels readier for the test, and if the examiner gets a phone call in the middle of it, interrupting the flow, my friend is ready to continue on from that point after being interrupted — something that throws people who learn a list from beginning to end in only one way.

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Is Calvin Coolidge Still President?

It’s been waaaay too long since we updated our website. So much has been happening, some good, some not, but all very… happening.

Through the past year-and-a-few, we lost four members of our family, three we were very close to. If you’ve ever lost someone you really loved, you get how this takes over your life. If you haven’t, it’s hard to explain.

There’s a dance that goes with the end of a life, a ritual of phone calls, emergencies, doctors and nurses and staying up too long for too many days in a row. Prior to entering the Valley of the Shadow of Death, we were in a very creative phase, getting a book finished, having art work accepted into exhibits. It was heady and wonderful and it all came to a crashing halt for more than a year. We reeled from loss to loss, numb, exhausted, too drained to hold a conversation for long, let alone create.

The return to life was slow for both of us. Now we’re creating again. The first novel is done and out seeking an agent, we have some leads but my basic theory is “Prepare for bad news, then if it’s good, hooray, and if it’s not, you’re ready.” It’s gotten a good response from test readers and we’re hopeful, but meantime, on to finishing the other three in the works already.

I had several sculptures begun, the research phase through, the design finished. Now I’m in the building phase of creativity. The first to be finished in a year, They Call It Bliss, is coming together almost exactly as I envisioned it, which is scary. It’s a weird piece and not much like anything I’ve done before.

The other two, the companion piece to His Own Man and a piece about autism are not as far along, but developing.

Perhaps recent events have deepened my understanding, perhaps it’s just natural development as an artist, but with every new work, I come through it more fully developed as a person. As I create them, they change me. Growth continues.

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Happy Accidents

When something goes wonky, it’s hard to see what good will come of it. After all, there you are, your lovely plan scattered around you… what’s good about that? You liked that plan, maybe loved it. It was so pretty.

It’s so easy to get wedded to an idea. Some people are more wedded to ideas than they are to other people. A plan seems to solve a problem, after all. Letting go of it means your problem doesn’t seem to have an answer any more.

There’s an old story of a kid who saved his town from flooding when the dam cracked by sticking his finger in the dam. Great, plugged the hole, saved the town, but what was the plan for after that? When the kid got tired, his finger wiggled, a bit of water escaped… A lot of plans are like that. They’re fingers stuck into dam holes. And sometimes the finger isn’t big enough, or the person can’t stand there long enough, or nobody has a plan beyond that since the finger seems to be working. The dam starts to leak or just gives way. Then what?

In art, things go off on directions you hadn’t planned all the time. Sculptures you envisioned one way won’t do that, they do something else (Simran). Something you try doesn’t work at all (Patternmaker — a sculpture with a great idea that didn’t quite work, so I’m taking that same idea and doing it differently). Characters have minds of their own and won’t go where you are pushing them to go. Sure, you learn from your mistakes, but only if you’re willing to let go of the plan and look at what happened as objectively as you can.

I’m a planner. When we went to Orlando for the first time and Disney World wanted to know where we wanted to have dinner in six months, Mark was flummoxed (he can plan and in great detail, but in his personal life tends to be more spontaneous). I was excited by the idea that I could already know where I was having dinner in six months, so I could look forward to it. My sculptures are made through a very contemplative, gradual process, each step planned and performed carefully. I’m usually working toward deadlines a month or even a year or more in the future, which suits me fine. I was the nerd who did her homework right away and read ahead in the book, partially because I enjoy learning and partially because not crowding my deadlines seems to be in my DNA.

So when something makes that awful “SPROING! GRRRRRR! BOING!” noise, and a plan sits before me giving off puffs of smoke, it’s a challenge. What I’ve finally figured out is that in that moment, the first step is to let go. Let go of what I expected, even counted on, to happen. Then I can look at what I’ve got to work with. Somebody once told me that no one ever got anywhere he wanted to be by starting off from where he thought he was. You have to start from where you are, with what you have, as who you are. If you can manage it, you might be able to make something you really like from what you actually have. I haven’t perfected the technique, but I’m working on it.

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